Friday, April 18, 2014

Singing in the Rain...

Or at least playing in some water....

Here is Southern California you've got to take the experiences with nature when you can get them.  I'm definitely one of those moms who believes in getting dirty.  You're only young once, so if she ruins a few pairs of pants or shirts, so what!  She grows so fast it's not like she really gets to wear anything more than once or twice as it is!

Yup, wet pants and all, but at least we had lots of fun.  That's what tennis shoes are for, right? 

Are you comfortable letting your little ones get messy?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our Passover Seder

Our Passover Seder seemed to be a great success!  I'm so happy that everyone was able to join us, and that all in all we had about 26 people coming to the event.

Our Passover dishes are yellow flowers with lots of green, so we definitely embraced that for the evening's event:

We had to set-up just about every table we owned, including taking the table from the outside and bringing it in.  We borrowed chairs from my in-laws, as well a high-chair from my parents to make sure that we had enough resources for everyone.  Thankfully we were also able to get a whole additional set of silverware and kosher them before the holiday.

We also had to buy an additional 4 place settings of plain white dishes- our place setting is only for 12 people, and we had 16 adults.  We served the egg soup on the table, so when people sat down the first thing they had was the egg soup.  I don't know how many people serve this as part of their meal, but it's been a tradition in my family for ever.  It's a hardboiled egg soup with salt water.  I totally love it, and it turned out that several of the kids loved it too.  Simple, yummy, and definitely traditional to start with an egg.

For the kids I used colorful napkins which I already had, and bought plastic eco-friendly plates in the right colors at Big Lots.  I had just enough kids silverware to make it work out, and I think that all the parents appreciated not having to worry about what there kids were going to do with breakables.  In the corner is our seder plate, which we bought at Target a few years ago.  It's heavy, and goes with everything, and generally I like it.  However, I'm sure over the year's I'll get the opportunity to buy something new.

Sorry this picture isn't the best, but it's what I took the night before we had everyone over.  We set-up the entrance breakfast bar with wine glasses of all sizes/shapes.  Since the event was on Tuesday night I didn't want to make anyone feel like they had to drink to much- if you look closely you can also see the small dixie cups that I got for kids and adults alike.  I also had a small bowl set-out in case anyone wanted to take on the challenge of drinking full glasses, as is tradition.  Our audience was really young, so no one drank much if any of the juice I bought.  I even bought a few sparkling juices for myself, but was so busy hosting that I didn't drink any of them!

You can also see that inside some of the wine glasses are the plague puppets that we have.  I assigned each one of the adults a plague.  While it was a good idea, in the actual telling of the story the adults needed more direction about what to do/how to participate.  Next year I'll spell it out on a little card, or maybe give the adults all the plague items to handle themselves.  You can also see our Haggadah from this year.  You can take a look at it in more detail.  I took a lot from, as well as the URJ.  The graphic images are from the Evite that I used, and something I found online- probably not for distribution, so don't try to sell my haggadah!

I gave each kid a basket.  Here's what was inside:

We had the basket, a baby Moses, some frogs, a Little People Farm animal, some sort of bug (finding just locusts was to hard!), a wild beast, some flies (for lice), some white craft balls (hail), red stickers (boils).  I had two pairs of sunglasses for darkness and a small bottle of red food dye for blood.  I didn't get a pair of glasses for every kid.  Honestly, while I'm glad I did it, it was quite the expense!

I put the really tiny items in a plastic ziplock bag so the kids didn't throw them around to early.  I think they really enjoyed them- especially the baby dolls.  Some of the kids took them home, others didn't.  I had expected them to take them as sort of gifts from the evening, but since we were done with them earlier in the evening, I don't think they thought about it.  If I was going to do it again I would still give the kids the baskets with the baby dolls, but I would hold on to the plague items and give those to the parent assigned to each plague.  That way the parents could give the items to the kids, and really interact a bit more.  At the end of the day, they really went off well.  It was great when we got to the plagues watching all the kids find their items and clutch them and show them off. The boil stickers were a HUGE hit too!

Relaxing with the youngest in the group, 10 weeks old!

Lots of Passover story books, in addition to our Haggadah.  We set-up the front room with lots of access.  You can also see a child in the far back, in front of the coloring table we had set-up.

Baby Moses also loves cats!
Almost the whole group.  I did this as a NEXT shabbat project, and they helped fund my kosher meat.

Wow- did you make it through the whole post?!  I'm impressed.  As a reward, here is the menu I served, along with the work I did leading up to the event.  The most popular items were the cauliflower side dish and the chicken with matzo stuffing. That chicken was AMAZING!.All in all a wonderful Passover event.

Of course, Passover isn't over yet.  We have a fun sorta seder coming up on Saturday, and of course we're Counting the Omer!  I promise to show pictures of my Omer counting fun next week.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Passover Tips & Tricks

So we've had our Passover seder.  25 people came over, enjoyed food, wine, singing and making a mess.  I'll post photos tomorrow, but for now I wanted to go over my 5 best tips and tricks for making any other seders you have go their best.

Family Seders (aka, not at your house/geared towards kids)
  1. This book for your toddler:  
    No, I'm not being perked, but this specific book really helped.  It's got great pictures, there's really nothing to explain.  It goes through all of the steps of the seder, so it's easy to follow along, flip through the pages as you get there, and it's got both Hebrew and English.  It's by Rite Lite, who make lots of really great items for Jewish kids.

  2. Jumping Frogs. 

    Especially if you can buy the kind that come with a game design, and have something for you to 'aim' for.  These are my absolute favorite of our frogs.  They jump really well, they are fairly easy to use and they hold up really well to kids, pets, adults and time.  It's possible to get the adults involved in this as well, but with just the little one she was able to dump them, line them up, stack them, and generally help herself to being entertained.

  3. Have a designated parent.  This could be the designated driver.  Or it could be a different parent based upon the moment.  But it's really key to have one person both designated as the 'more sober one' and the 'officially watching' one.  It's likely that a diaper change will happen at the worst time, or your child will spill their crayons all over the floor just as the soup course is coming around.  But having one of you really dedicated means that you can both enjoy those moments away a little bit more.

  4.  Coloring Cards.  I downloaded a BUNCH of options, but the ones that I ended up liking the best are these from Chabad.  The images might seem a bit dated, and they certainly were to complicated for little Exuberant Girl (EG) to do on her own, but I liked that I could give her a new one based upon what was happening in the seder, and there were a lot of pages to keep her entertained.

Seder's At Your House:
  1. Go CRAZY with the plagues.  Even before we got to the part of the service where we went through the plagues, giving all the kids plague elements definitely kept them entertained.  No, you might not be talking about the wild beasts, but they can play with the objects before you get there.  I'll show you what we gave each child in their little baskets, but I think it worked really well to keep them all engaged with at least something holiday related. 

  1.  Lots of Songs.  I downloaded a BUNCH of options, but the ones that I ended up liking the best are here.  And honestly, I didn't really need to play many of them, as they are known to the audience I was engaging with.  Each time we would sing a song, all of the kids would pay attention and really engage with us.
  1. Don't sit at the table.  This is the second year where we've avoided the table until it was actually time to eat.  It's worked out really nicely.  Sitting at a table, being strapped into a chair really limits a child's ability to engage, and with force of habit, makes them think that dinner is imminent even when it isn't.  Keeping everyone on couches or the floor and allowing the kids free movement really helped them keep their energies in check.

4.      Dramatic story-telling.  You know those people who do magical things with their words?  When you are telling the story of Passover really get into it.  It’s a dramatic story with burning bushes, evil Pharoah’s, etc.  Making eye contact, hand gestures and really being in the moment can help to show the kids how magical it is, and keep them engaged in the evening.

 I know some people will have seders on Friday, and we're also attending one on Saturday.  Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you to have the best seder you can, especially with your young ones.  Try to remind those who you are with about the reasons behind having the youngest ask the questions- everyone else might know the stories and the songs, but how are we passing that down to the next generation?  How are we ensuring that our kids have that experience and can really engage with the seder in a meaningful and appropriate way? 

Good luck, and Chag Sameach! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When you thought that Passover was enough...

we begin to count the Omer!

 ספירת העומר

Sefirat HaOmer

For those of you who don't know, the second night of Passover is the starting of the Counting of the Omer.  The biblical requirement to count the omer comes from Leviticus, and dicates that you should count the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot.  While many of us think that after Passover there aren't any holidays, if you count the Omer there is something fun to do everyday!

According to the rules you are supposed to count the omer each night, starting on Tuesday, April 15th.  You should count the omer when it's nighttime (typically when there are 3 stars in the sky, or 30 minutes after sundown) and count each night until you get to 50.  You say the day of the count, and the week of the count (today is day 15, which is 2 weeks and one day) There is a prayer that's said each night as well:
Baruch atah A-donai E-loheinu Melekh Ha-olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al S'firat Ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.
If you forget to count one evening, you can still count during the day, just no saying the prayer.  However, if you forget an entire day then you are 'out for the count.'

Since no one wants to start counting the omer then have to stop because they forgot, you'll often find people setting up Omer counters during the week before Passover as well.  This is a great way to get your kids involved, and a great time to reflect on the meaning of the week.

Now, I've never counted the Omer before.  But I'm always looking for ways to more actively engage with my little EG and with our family in general.  Unfortunately I've had a hard time finding any type of interactive counter that would work with my little one.  So, I've turned to Advent calendars, and I think I'm going to set-up this type:
Or here's a mom who followed this Advent style for Chanukkah:
I think I'm going to put some sort of treat in each bag, and hopefully a little card with what to think about following one of these traditions:

Biblical Women
Traditional Omer Thoughts
Plants for the Omer

PJ Library also has some good resources for counting the Omer here.  Since this is our first time participating in the event I think we'll stick with the traditional Omer thoughts and work our way around from there.  I like the idea of focusing on something for the week, and new ways to look at that item each day.  I do plan to put some sort of treat in each bag, even though the time of the Omer is traditionally not a time for celebrations...I think it's important that while we reflect we also have something to motivate us more externally.  Hopefully a little treat will do just that.  I'll try to post pictures when it's up, and give you a report about how it goes!
If you aren't feeling very crafty, or maybe you want a little more fun you can count the 'Homer Calendar' during this time as well.  Any way you choose, maybe you'll throw a little Omer into your home this year!

Love this!  Thanks Keren Keet!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Selling your Chametz

Rabbi Jason Blog

Have you 'sold' your chamtez yet?  This was probably one of the most controversial things in our household when we were just moving in together.  Trying to explain the intricacies of what is Chametz, what is kitniyot and what we have to do with it during the holiday...confusing!

On top of all of that, we then have to deal with the prospect of not owning it.  I don't know how it happens, but it seems that we always end up stocking up on pasta before Passover.  If I was smart I'd stop buying any products in the middle of March, but somehow, that just never works out for me.

So what's a Jew to do?  Commit internet fraud, of course. 

Yes, you read that right, internet fraud.

As my lovely husband likes to point out, the sales of your Chametz online via links like these is most likely illegal and internet fraud.  What you are doing when you are submitting that form is giving the user on the other end the authority to sell your items for you.  But we all know that you have no intention of following through on the sale, right?  You don't expect some burly guys to show up with a moving truck, knock on your door and take delivery of the 'items' they just bought, do you? but I wouldn't mind if they showed up at my door!
According to the Rabbi's you are perfectly safe from a religious perspective... (a more through legal argument can be read here...) but I think the real question is how you feel about it.  Working Dad definitely thinks it's hysterical, and every year I go out of my way to avoid trying to commit Internet Fraud.  I just know he wouldn't let me hear the end of it.

Back to the point...have you sold your Chametz yet?  I usually try to talk a friendly neighbor into 'owning' it for me.  We exchange a dollar and I feel much better knowing that he could take ownership if he really wanted to.  But that can lead to some awkward conversations.  My Mother-in-Law offered to buy our Chametz this year.  I'm thinking I might take her up on it.

What are you doing?  Internet fraud, or something else?

PS- you have to sell your Chametz TODAY before a specific time... Make sure you do it this morning so as not to miss the deadline :-)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Temple Shalom Tot Shabbat

We'll be headed to the Temple Shalom in Hermosa Beach Tot Shabbat tonight.  They meet at St. Cross Church at 1818 Monterey Blvd. Hermosa Beach, CA.  The program starts at 5:30pm, and we've never been before.

Hope to see you there!

Jerusalem Connection

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Songs for Passover

As I'm getting ready for my Toddler Passover seder I've been not only cutting down and altering the text of my Haggadah, but I've also been trying to find some additional musical resources to add to the evening.


There are lots of traditional songs in the Passover seder, including Kadesh Urchatz, Ma Nishtana, Dayeinu, and Eliahu Hanavi.   And while these are great, there are also lots of new, updated and modern songs that the kids can enjoy.  Bang Bang, Lotsa Matza, and the Frogs song to name just a few.  Not from when we were kids, but still rather fun.  I'm using the Bang Bang song during the seder, and I plan to play Lotsa Matza after dinner before we get into dessert/seder part 2.  I'm planning to seat everyone at the table while we sing Dayeinu.  That way we're all entertained, we can all chat/get our kids settled without having to worry to much about interrupting the 'flow.'

Here's what will be a part of my Musical Seder celebration:
Amazon Affiliate Link
Amazon Affiliate Link

I've also downloaded a lot of the more traditional Passover songs from the Jewish Birth Network. While I love Shira Kline (I won all her CD's), her melodies are a little bit more exciting, and interactive than I wanted for the most traditional songs.  I also love the Jewish Birth Network's version of the Bang Bang Hammer song, since the kids have been learning that one at school.

I've also downloaded a few videos, just in case the kids get a bit ancy and need some private time. 

Of course, I have the old standby- Shalom Sesame.  I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but if nothing else I'm hoping it can help me keep EG calm while I'm getting the house ready on Tuesday.

Amazon Affiliate Link

Are you having a more musical Seder?  Do you like the traditional melodies, or are you branching outside the box to explore a little more this year?
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